Today’s Coronavirus News: Merck Says Experimental Pill Reduces Worst Effects of COVID-19; Outbreak Labeled at Toronto East Detention Center

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world on Friday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

6:15 am: Merck & Co. said on Friday that its experimental COVID-19 pill halved hospitalizations and deaths in people recently infected with the coronavirus and that it would soon ask health officials in the US and around the world to authorize their use.

If approved, Merck’s drug would be the first pill shown to treat COVID-19, a potentially important advance in efforts to combat the pandemic. All COVID-19 therapies now licensed in the US require an IV or injection.

Merck and its partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics said early results showed that patients who received the drug, called molnupiravir, within five days of COVID-19 symptoms had about half the hospitalization and death rate as patients. who received a dummy pill. The study tracked 775 adults with mild to moderate COVID-19 who were considered to be at increased risk for serious illness due to health problems such as obesity, diabetes or heart disease.

Among the patients taking molnupiravir, 7.3% were hospitalized or died within 30 days, compared with 14.1% of those taking the dummy pill. There were no deaths in the drug group after that time period compared to eight deaths in the placebo group, according to Merck. The results were published by the company and have not been peer-reviewed. Merck said it plans to present them at a future medical meeting.

6:05 am: Japan fully emerged from a coronavirus state of emergency for the first time in more than six months as the country gradually begins to ease anti-virus measures to help rejuvenate the pandemic-hit economy as infections slow.

At Tokyo’s busy Shinagawa train station, a sea of ​​masked commuters rushed to work despite an approaching typhoon, with some returning to their offices after months of remote work.

The emergency measures, in place in more than half the country, including Tokyo, ended on Thursday after a steady drop in the number of new cases in recent weeks, helping to ease pressure on Japanese health care systems. .

Outgoing Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga thanked people for their patience and cooperation, and asked them to stick to his basic anti-virus measures.

“Once again, I seek your cooperation so that we can return to our daily lives feeling safe,” he said.

5:45 am.: Toronto Public Health has declared a COVID-19 outbreak at the Toronto East Detention Center in Scarborough, according to a spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office.

Ontario reports 34 active cases of COVID-19 among inmates at the correctional facility, as of Thursday.

According to provincial data, the detention center reported four confirmed cases on September 12. As of September 23, there were 17 active cases. An additional 17 confirmed infections were reported Monday.

Located near Eglinton Avenue East and Birchmount Road in Scarborough, the correctional facility has a capacity for 473 inmates.

Read more from Joshua Chong from Star.

05:30 am: Somalia has opened the country’s first public oxygen plant as the Horn of Africa nation with one of the weakest health systems in the world battles COVID-19.

The oxygen plant was installed on Thursday at a hospital in the capital Mogadishu. It is expected to produce 1,000 cylinders of oxygen a week.

Shortages of medical oxygen have hurt response efforts in many African nations, as the delta variant of the coronavirus now drives most of the infections on the continent of 1.3 billion people.

Insecurity in Somalia poses an additional challenge to efforts to combat the pandemic. A recently installed COVID-19 ward in the hospital was partially destroyed weeks ago in an attack by the extremist group al-Shabab, linked to al Qaeda, which controls parts of Somalia and often targets the capital.

Part of the work around the installation of the oxygen plant focused on repairing that damage.

Somalia has one of the highest COVID-19 fatality rates in Africa, and few measures are in place to slow the spread of the virus.

5:15 am: Saskatchewan’s proof of vaccination policy is now in effect, meaning residents will need to prove they have been vaccinated or have a negative COVID-19 test to access various businesses and event venues.

Public service employees must also provide proof of vaccination or provide a negative COVID-19 test result at least every seven days.

It comes a day after Saskatchewan recorded its highest daily COVID-19 case count and its highest number of people in need of intensive care.

Businesses that will require proof of vaccination include restaurants, bars, nightclubs, theaters, casinos, and entertainment venues.

Children under the age of 12 are exempt from the requirements.

5 am: On Thursday, Alberta Prime Minister Jason Kenney announced that about 35 healthcare workers from outside the province will be onboard to help deal with the growing COVID-19 crisis in the province.

The move comes after the prime minister spent the week resisting calls from health professionals for a blockage of circuit breakers in the province, as well as downplaying the immediate need for outside help.

But at a news conference Thursday, Kenney said Alberta was working to bring in five or six workers from Newfoundland and Labrador, eight to ten from the Canadian Armed Forces and about 20 from the Canadian Red Cross. Workers are likely heading to Fort McMurray, Edmonton and Red Deer to help with the province’s overwhelmed ICUs, Kenney said.

“It’s a helping hand,” Kenney said. “It will help provide some relief. In some of our hospitals, that is very welcome. “

For weeks, Alberta has been dealing with the worst COVID-19 crisis in the country. Some 200 additional ICU beds have been opened as hospitals have struggled to keep up with the flood of admitted mostly unvaccinated patients.

Read more from Star’s Kieran Leavitt.

4:30 am: A third school district in British Columbia has announced its own policy extending a provincial mask mandate for students in kindergarten through third grade starting Monday.

The Burnaby School District followed the lead of the Vancouver and Surrey districts in requiring masks for all grades as concerns mount about the growing number of COVID-19 infections among children who are not eligible for vaccination.

The district says in a letter sent to parents Thursday that the Burnaby Board of Education made a unanimous decision on the change after requesting an urgent meeting Wednesday night with Dr. Ariella Zbar, the health medical officer of Burnaby. Fraser Health.

“Their assurance that masks are an effective layer of protection for all students when used in conjunction with other health and safety measures informed the board’s decision to quickly implement this new mask requirement,” the letter says.

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